How to research a link building campaign [4 case studies]

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    Before I outline how to research a link building campaign, let’s cover the basics even if this reads like I’m teaching your granny to suck eggs.

    You’ve heard people say “Just create great content and people will naturally link to you.”

    Utter bollocks.

    • People are busy.
    • People are distracted.
    • People only care about themselves and not you.

    What you think earns links and what actually earns links are two ends of a spectrum.

    What is a backlink ?

    A backlink is a mention of your web page in the body of another web page that includes a link back to your web page.

    On my page, I linked to the Internet Live Stats website; so they earned a backlink.

    Flywheel linked to my page here.

    So I earned a backlink.

    Why is link building important ?

    To quote Ahrefs, “Google has even confirmed that backlinks are one of their top 3 ranking factors“.

    Ahrefs studied about a billion web pages to see how backlinks from unique websites correlate organic traffic.

    So, more backlinks from unique websites, the better your web page performs in the search engines.

    How do backlinks boost website and page rankings ?

    This diagram explains it.

    How backlinks boost website and page rankings infographic

    How do I get links ? With link intent

    You don’t GET links, you earn them.

    I did a study of my own to find out how and why websites earned links.

    I looked at websites that were published last year about SEO.

    • 104,015 pages were published talking about SEO.
    • 16280 of them had 1 or more links
    • 950 of them earned 30 or more links

    What made these 950 pages so special to earn 30 plus links?

    Well 16% of them were HOW articles.

    And don’t think for a moment these websites are all big industry websites; 10% of those websites that earn 30+ links had a domain rating of less than 50.

    So to earn links you need to understand link intent 

    Let Britney from Moz explain:

    Keywords with link intent are things like your industry, statistics, your topic facts.

    It’s finding the keywords that have statistics, facts, data, other things that have link intent built in between because people are putting resources together and they want to link out and reference research, they want to reference a statistic.

    Britney Muller, https://twitter.com/BritneyMuller

    Researching Link Intent

    In other words, what kind of content are people linking to in your industry ?

    The only way you’re going to find that out is using Ahrefs.

    The best backlink analysis tool; period.

    Let’s say I sell – green tea

    Let me find out what people have previously linked to in this industry.

    • Ahrefs Content Explorer
    • Enter seed keyword into search bar, select title
    • Filter by 20 or more referring domains
    • Sort by referring domains
    • Read through the page titles for the words “guide, how, statistics” or words related to those.

    The most linked articles published in the last year were about the health benefits and living longer.

    For me to create a study or authoritatively communicate health benefits about tea, well I’d be out of my depth.

    So what other subjects get linked to ?

    Tea and hair; that could be fun content to write about and share.

    Green Iced Tea recipes.

    I think I’ve found my link building campaign.

    The content on pages about recipes typically include :

    • Ingredients
    • Instructions
    • Information about the ingredients
    • And photographs

    Stunning photography.

    Hire yourself a photographer and shoot photographs and add them to your page.

    Add a subsection “Contact us if you want your high resolution versions of these images for your website, Facebook or Instagram account” 

    These tactics turn the web page into assets that other websites can use and link to.

    • Export the page URLs that link to the competitor’s web page.
    • Use a tool such as Hunter.io to find the email addresses of people linking to the competitor’s web page.
    • Compose a personalised email using outreach software and offer prospects a customised or branded version of the asset on your page you created; in exchange for a link back to your page.

    And not only that, you can use the photographs across your social media channels.

    Let’s say I sell these services – social media

    If you offered social media or you’re in the social media space, let me find out what people have previously to link to.

    • Ahrefs Content Explorer
    • Enter seed keyword into search bar, select title
    • Filter by 20 or more referring domains
    • Sort by referring domains
    • Read through the page titles for the words “guide, how, statistics” or words related to those.

    I’d look out for pages I could recreate that have broken links; like this one about social media marketing tips with 786 broken links.

    Or create an industry report like this one with 353 referring domains.

    Or these 2 topics.

    Or a report.

    Or statistics

    Or a how to guide.

    Filter Ahrefs content explorer by adding AND “how “ to the end of the “social media” query.

    So how would you earn links to your website ?

    Using the “how to use social media for real estate” article as an example.

    • Read the page, think how you could apply this to your industry or an industry you want to target
    • The article provide great strategies for using social media; create your own strategies
    • Provide checklists in graphic formats
    • Find and add some relevant statistics and add a chart or graphic
    • Find and add quotes or comments from people in the industry
    • Add a subsection “Contact us if you want your own branded version of these images for your website, Facebook or Instagram account” 

    These tactics will help to turn the web page into assets that other websites can use and link to.

    • Export the page URLs that link to the competitor’s web page.
    • Use a tool such as Hunter.io to find the email addresses of people linking to the competitor’s web page.
    • Compose a personalised email using outreach software and offer prospects a customised or branded version of the asset on your page you created; in exchange for a link back to your page.

    Let’s say I sell branding services

    So you sell branding services, what have people linked to ?

    • Ahrefs Content Explorer
    • Enter seed keyword into search bar, select title
    • Filter by 20 or more referring domains
    • Sort by referring domains
    • Filter by date eg: the last 12 months
    • Read through the page titles for the words “guide, how, statistics” or words related to those.

    Now scroll through the list and the first page I see is this one about branding statistics with 247 referring domains.

    Nice.

    The next one; a guide to planning a branding photoshoot.

    Without researching any further I found two great topics that you could earn links to your website from.

    Look at each of the pages.

    Now I’m sure you could identify more up to date statistics or perhaps you’d plan a photoshoot completely differently from this author.

    Either way, both articles are useful; because so many websites have previously, and still do, link to these 2 web pages.

    Write your article then :

    • Provide checklists in graphic formats on your page that summary the main points
    • Find and add some relevant statistics and add a chart or graphic
    • Find and add quotes or comments from people in the industry
    • Add a subsection “Contact us if you want your own branded version of these images for your website, Facebook or Instagram account” 

    These tactics turn the web page into assets that other websites can use and link to.

    • Export the page URLs that link to the competitor’s web page.
    • Use a tool such as Hunter.io to find the email addresses of people linking to the competitor’s web page.
    • Compose a personalised email using outreach software and offer prospects a customised or branded version of the asset on your page you created; in exchange for a link back to your page.

    Let’s say I sell these services – electrical, electrician

    So you’re an electrician or sell electrical services or products.

    Let me find out what people have linked to in the past.

    This wasn’t so easy using Ahrefs content explorer tool so plan B.

    You might need to examine an industry or competitor website’s backlinks.

    For example : mr-electric.co.uk is a website in the electrical industry I would study if I were working on an electrical website.

    To examine a competitor’s backlinks.

    • Ahrefs
    • Site Explorer
    • Look by the Best by links area
    • Look at the top linked pages that aren’t the home page, product or service pages

    Eg:

    How to choose a really good electrician

    Because 38 websites are linking to this page, that’s link intent.

    Now look at the page.

    Nothing specialise.

    In fact I’m amazed people link to a page link to this.

    So how would you earn links to your website ?

    • The page is 5 years old; produce a more up to date page.
    • Add an infographic – like a checklist
    • Find and add some relevant statistics and add a chart or graphic
    • Find and add quotes or comments from people in the industry
    • Add a subsection “Contact us if you want your own branded version of these images for your website, Facebook or Instagram account” 

    These tactics turn the web page into assets that other websites can use and link to.

    • Export the page URLs that link to the competitor’s web page.
    • Use a tool such as Hunter.io to find the email addresses of people linking to the competitor’s web page.
    • Compose a personalised email using outreach software and offer prospects a customised or branded version of the asset on your page you created; in exchange for a link back to your page.

    Cost and Time

    Link building has costs and takes time; here’s an idea of what’s included.

    • Ahrefs : $179
    • Find email addresses : $99
    • Outreach software : $59
    • Research hours – 10 hours
    • Content creation hours – 20 hours ?
    • Building the campaign –  10 hours ?
    • Time spent replying to emails send and trying to secure links – 30 hours 

    Let’s say I charge £50 an hour that’s £3,500.

    But let’s say your outreach and link building campaign secures 20 high quality links to your website.

    The alternative is to pay for links; like this.

    So for 20 links, depending on the quality of the links, you will pay the link building company the following:

    • £1660
    • £2000
    • £2600

    SEO is a Long Term Investment

    Look at the historical backlink profile of Mr Electric.

    See how their referring domains rose from 143 to 446 between May 2016 and June 2017.

    Here’s their backlink profile in May 2016; 143 referring domains.

    Now a year or so later; June 2016 they have 449 referring domains.

    That’s a very strong link growth.

    So what ?

    Now let’s look at their organic traffic.

    In June 2016 they had an estimated 279 visits.

    In February the traffic rose to 1086 visits per month.

    Then their website traffic went a bit funky but so did Google with all their search engine changes.

    • October 2015 – RankBrain
    • January 2016 – Panda
    • June 2016 – Quality Update
    • September 2016 – Penguin update
    • November 2016 – ???
    • March 2017 – Fred
    • October 2018 – Halloween Update

    But over time, you can see their traffic definitely increased.

    That phase of link building they did between May 2016 and June 2017 has to be a major factor in their organic traffic growth.

    Let’s do some maths

    Those organic visits are worth $5700 in equivalent paid advertising spend.

    $5700 divided 1900 visits = $3 a click.

    1900 less 279 clicks = 1621 additional visits x $3 a visit = $4863 per month in additional traffic value.

    The links they earned are worth $4863 every month and you can see they’ve had a year of 1900 visits a month.

    In other words $58,356 of traffic value this year.

    $58,356 in traffic value next year.

    So £3000 spent or invested in link building now has resulted in $4863 every month for 24 months, $116,000 over 24 months.

    That’s called an investment.

    Want Link Intent Research ?

    I trust this was useful.

    If you’re considering organic traffic growth, let me analyse who’s linking to which assets in your industry.

    Let me show you how your competitors are earning links.

    I’ll provide you with the topic for your next link campaign and all the backlinks.

    Then you just need to create the content and linkable assets and you do the outreach.

    Learn more and get pricing information here.